New Health Secretary pledges to transform technology in effort to reduce staff workloads and improve patient care
Newly-appointed Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged almost half a billion pounds to transform technology in the NHS in an attempt to reduce staff workloads and improve patient care.
In his first speech since being appointed to the post, he listed technology as one of his top three priorities and spoke about how it could help achieve improvements in his other two focus areas – workforce and the prevention of illness.
About £412m will be made available to transform technology in hospitals, to improve care, and give more patients access to health services at home.
Digital innovation can have a place alongside tried-and-tested traditional methods, but with government policy helping drive this forward it will have a huge impact on patients and healthcare professionals alike
A further £75m will be available for trusts to replace paper-based systems with electronic systems, which Hancock said could reduce medication errors by up to 50%.
Addressing staff at West Suffolk Hospital on Friday, he said: “From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming.
“The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”
He said the challenge of finding or inventing the technology was relatively small compared with the challenge of embedding and embracing it.
The former Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was named Health Secretary following the resignation of Jeremy Hunt who was moved to the Foreign Office after six years heading up the Department of Health.
Addressing Hunt’s often-controversial tenure, Hancock told staff it was ‘heartbreaking to see how undervalued you often feel’ and promised to be their champion.
He said he was horrified that 12% of staff felt discriminated against, according to a recent survey.
“In both health and social care I want your voice to be at the heart of government,” he said.
For too long the NHS has been weighed down by a mismatch of new and old technologies that simply do not, and cannot, work together. This clear commitment and action can help to change this
“To make this happen I’m going to launch a consultation exercise on workforce issues. And I’ll be setting up a panel of clinical and professional advisers from a cross section of the NHS and social care workforce.”
In recent weeks, Prime Minister, Theresa May, has pledged to boost NHS funding by around £20billion a year in real terms by 2024, but there have been concerns as to whether it will be enough to fix the problems the service faces.
Hancock said it was important to make the most of the extra cash by keeping people out of hospital.
Healthcare technology suppliers have welcomed the investment.
Speaking to BBH, Stephen Bourke, co-founder of medication management app, Echo, said: “The news that technology will be one of Matt Hancock’s top priorities proves he understands the significant difference innovation can make to the under-pressure health service.
“£412m will provide a starting point to transforming technology in hospitals and giving patients more access to health at home.
“Digital innovation can have a place alongside tried-and-tested traditional methods, but with government policy helping drive this forward it will have a huge impact on patients and healthcare professionals alike, including addressing the fact that half of the £9billion we spend on medication in primary care each year is wasted after prescriptions aren’t taken as directed.”
Flashy front-end devices help signal a digital future for the NHS, but to convert this considerable promise into measurable success we need to start from the ground up by building a lasting digital backbone
And Chris McCullough, chief executive and co-founder at Rotageek, added: “For too long the NHS has been weighed down by a mismatch of new and old technologies that simply do not, and cannot, work together. This clear commitment and action can help to change this.
“The announcement of a meaningful investment in technology is great news for healthcare workers and patients alike, but it’s the next step that will make all the difference. The money must be spent in the right places.”
The former A&E doctor added: “Flashy front-end devices help signal a digital future for the NHS, but to convert this considerable promise into measurable success we need to start from the ground up by building a lasting digital backbone.
“That means stripping out and replacing outdated back-end technology and legacy systems.”